When to Use 14-14-14 Fertilizer? | How to Use Triple 14

Plants, shrubs and trees access and utilize nutrients from the soil, the air, and the sun to grow and thrive. Over time, soil nutrients can become depleted. This is when plants can suffer from deficiencies and diseases and will welcome a boost from macro and micronutrients that supplemental fertilizers provide.

A 14-14-14 fertilizer will infuse the soil with a balanced blend of nutrients and is a great all-purpose feed option for your plants. Here’s everything you need to know about choosing and using triple 14 fertilizer from when and how often to use it, to what plants benefit from it the most.

Understanding 14-14-14 Fertilizer Label?

All plants require a combination of essential mineral elements to thrive – macronutrients (also called primary nutrients) such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and potassium; secondary nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and sulfur; and micronutrients such as boron, iron, manganese, chlorine, copper, molybdenum, and zinc. 

Most of these nutrients are naturally available but sometimes available resources can become depleted and so soil and plants need a little help getting what they need to thrive.

fertilizer label explained

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N-P-K Ratio

The “14-14-14” in 14-14-14 fertilizer refers to the ratio of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) in the fertilizer. Each number describes the total percentage of fertilizer made up of that nutrient. A 14-14-14 fertilizer, then, is made up of 14 percent nitrogen, 14 percent phosphorus, and 14 percent potassium. 

For those doing the math at home, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium make up 42 percent of the 14-14-14 fertilizer mixture. The remaining 58 percent comprises other lesser nutrients and inactive ingredients. This distinguishes 14-14-14 fertilizer from other fertilizers, such as 10-20-10 or 16-16-16, with different nutrient ratios.


In order to thrive, a plant must intake roughly 1.75 percent of its total mass in nitrogen. Nitrogen is responsible for cell formation and the production of proteins, amino acids, and chlorophyll. 

Plants that receive too little nitrogen may experience stunted growth, especially in younger leaves. The end result can be pale green to yellow foliage and even death caused by a lack of chlorophyll.

On the flip side, too much nitrogen can cause plants to suffer from nitrogen toxicity, which is just as harmful as nitrogen deficiency. 

Plants that have too much nitrogen will turn abnormally dark green, and the leaves will develop a cupped, claw-like shape. While not all plants will develop clawed leaves, most will at least show nitrogen toxicity through downturned leaf tips.


Phosphorus makes up about 0.25 percent of a healthy plant’s mass. This element is responsible for cell formation, fat and carbohydrate metabolism, and protein synthesis. 

A phosphorus deficiency can inhibit a plant’s shoot growth, turning its leaves pale, blue-green, or even reddish in severe cases. Leaves may continue to grow but will be smaller than a healthy plant’s leaves.

Excessive phosphorus in the soil, however, can interfere with a plant’s ability to absorb other nutrients, namely iron, and zinc. In fact, iron and zinc deficiencies are often caused by an overabundance of phosphorus. Symptoms of iron deficiency due to excessive phosphorus include yellowing between the veins of the leaves, while zinc deficiency causes bleaching.


Potassium comprises about 1.5 percent of a healthy plant and is responsible for enzyme activity and water regulation. When plants lack sufficient potassium, they’ll be more likely to wilt, especially on sunny days. Younger leaves are inhibited, while older leaves may take on a bronze, wavy, or blotchy appearance. 

Many plants will absorb much more potassium than they need if it’s available in the soil. While this isn’t as harmful to most plants as an excess of phosphorus or nitrogen, excessive potassium can impact the plant’s ability to absorb magnesium, leading to a deficiency. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency are yellowing leaves and defoliation of the lower leaves.

What is Triple 14 Fertilizer Used For?

Triple 14 fertilizer is an evenly balanced fertilizer that’s great for all-purpose use, but best suited for use on trees, shrubs, fruiting plants, vegetables, and lawns. It’s perfect for giving your soil an across-the-board nutrient boost mid-season.

Why Use a Balanced Fertilizer?

A balanced fertilizer is any fertilizer with an equal (1:1:1) ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus to potassium. 14-14-14 fertilizer is a balanced fertilizer, as is any fertilizer where all three numbers in the NPK ratio are the same, including 5-5-5, 10-10-10, and 20-20-20. 

You should use a balanced fertilizer in soils where the nutrient levels in the soil are low but in balance. 

A fertilizer with an even mix of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium will increase the nutrient level across the board, without creating any unintended excesses or deficiencies.

To test your soil’s nutrient level, contact your state’s agricultural cooperative extension service. They can test your soil and give you advice on how best to nourish your plants. Or use a home-use soil testing kit that you send away to have laboratory tested.

Fertilizer Type

14-14-14 fertilizer is most often a synthetic fertilizer since the ratios of each of the macronutrients need to be evenly balanced. 

All fertilizers – synthetic or otherwise – come in four main forms – liquid concentrate, soluble powder, slow-release granules, and fertilizer spikes. Here’s what you need to know about each form.

Liquid Concentrate

Liquid fertilizers can be purchased either pre-mixed or in concentrated formulas that need diluting with water prior to application. They are either applied to the soil or directly to the foliage, which will naturally channel the fertilizer to the roots, allowing some nutrients to be absorbed by the leaves at the same time.

Liquid fertilizers distribute the nutrients more evenly and consistently than dry fertilizer granules and spikes. They are fast-acting and start working as soon as they come into contact with the roots. 

Liquids are easy to apply to houseplants, but evenly distributing liquid fertilizer on large plots of land may require some costly equipment such as a hand-held or hose attachment sprayer.

Water-Soluble Powder

Water-soluble powder fertilizers, like liquid concentrate fertilizers, must be diluted in water before application. 

Once dissolved and diluted, they are exactly the same as liquid concentrate fertilizers. The advantages, disadvantages, and usage of water-soluble powder fertilizers are the same as liquid concentrates.

Slow-Release Granules

Slow-release fertilizer granules are applied directly to the soil. In houseplants, you can mix granular fertilizer into the soil directly and in larger, outdoor gardens, slow-release granules are applied in a double band pattern, with one band a couple of inches below the seed and another a couple of inches to the side of a row of crops.

Granules start working once they have been activated with a sprinkling of water and are broken down over a period of time with the help of microbes in the soil.

The nutrient content of a granular fertilizer can be uneven depending on how well they have been broadcasted, and this can make even fertilization more difficult. 

Some plants, particularly young ones, may also steer their roots away from “hot spots” of granular fertilizer. Spreading granular fertilizer can be done by hand or by using a broadcast spreader.

Fertilizer Spikes

Fertilizer spikes are made of a dry fertilizer that has been compressed into a stick that can be pushed into the soil. They are easy to use, relatively mess-free, and odorless. 

The flip side of using spikes is their cost since larger plants, trees, and shrubs require more spikes to be sufficiently fertilized. They can also cause root burn if – when inserted into the soil – they are positioned too close to the root structure.

How and When to Use Triple 14 Fertilizer

Triple 14 fertilizer is most effective for plants, trees, and shrubs that already benefit from soil that is well maintained and offers the right pH levels. Here’s how to put it to good use.

Trees and Shrubs

Trees and shrubs generally require more nitrogen in the soil than other plants, due to their explosive leaf production, although this varies by species. 

In general, you should choose a higher nitrogen fertilizer such as 16-4-8 or 12-4-8 to keep trees and shrubs happy and healthy.

Fruit Trees

Young fruit trees in the first year of planting can be burned by nitrogen, so wait until early in the second year to begin fertilizing annually with 14-14-14 fertilizer. 

The additional phosphorus and potassium are beneficial to healthy bud development that in turn will lead to successful fruit and fruit production.


Most flowers require a balanced supply of nutrients to thrive, though some are more finicky than others. In general, 14-14-14 fertilizer is best applied to garden soil around flowers once per growing season.

Vegetable Gardens

Like fruit trees, vegetable gardens require extra phosphorus and potassium to grow healthy produce, so a balanced fertilizer like 14-14-14 is usually exactly what they need. 

It is worth noting that too much nitrogen can cause chlorosis, and excess phosphorus can interfere with necessary mycorrhizal fungi growth, so be sure to test your soil before you apply any fertilizer.


Potted houseplants are the easiest to fertilize with 14-14-14 fertilizers. Simply sprinkle some granules on top of the soil or add the required amount of liquid to a watering can and work them in gently. 

To avoid over-fertilizing houseplants, it is a good idea to dilute high-ratio feeds. By diluting a Triple 14 with twice the amount of water, not only does your fertilizer become the equivalent of a 7-7-7 fertilizer, it will also last longer.

Lawn and Grass

Different regions have significantly different nutrients in their soils, so before you fertilize your lawn, make sure to get your soil tested by your state’s cooperative extension or by using a soil test kit. 

If your lawn needs balanced nutrition, use a fertilizer spreader to get even 14-14-14 coverage across your entire lawn.

14-14-14 Fertilizer for Garden FAQs

Now that you know all about choosing and using 14-14-14 fertilizer, here’s what you need to know about where to buy it.